Team searches for Stevensville man missing in Wyo. He vanished in wilderness on camping trip last week

September 07, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A rescue party in Wyoming is searching for a Stevensville man who has been missing for a week in wilderness where he had been hiking with friends, authorities said yesterday.

About 50 friends, volunteers, and members of the Sublette County Sheriff's office have spent a week combing the rugged terrain around a lake in the Bridger Wilderness where David M. Crouch, 27, of Queen Anne's County was last seen. He had been on a two-week hiking trip about 60 miles southeast of Jackson Hole.

Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland said the searchers will scale back their efforts tomorrow if Crouch is not found. They have narrowed the search to a square mile between two lakes -- an area characterized by "steep ledges, drop offs and ravines mixed with huge boulders the size of houses," Ruland said.

"It is so very rare that we get something like this," Ruland said, adding that it was the first time in several years that a hiker has been lost for more than three days. Crouch is the 16th person reported missing in the wilderness this year, he said.

According to the sheriff, Crouch was among several people brought to a campsite near Lost Lake about 10,500 feet above sea level by wilderness guides from Bald Mountain Outfitters.

On the morning of Aug. 31, Crouch -- wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt -- left the campsite for a fishing trip to Island Lake, about 1 1/2 miles away. He carried only his fishing rod, leaving his survival equipment at the campsite, Ruland said.

It was his first wilderness camping trip.

Crouch was expecting to fish two hours and find his way back to camp for lunch, but when he didn't return by late afternoon, camp members began searching, Ruland said.

Authorities have combed the paths on horseback and flown in two teams of dogs.

The weather over the past week has been cold and rainy, and search crews have reported seeing snow a few hundred feet above them.

Back at home in Stevensville, relatives are praying for Crouch's safe return. They issued a statement thanking the community for its support.

"It's really hard," said William Crouch, David's father.

Crouch, a Kent Island native, manages a Bike Doctor store in Stevensville where he lives with his wife, Donna.

Co-worker Cliff Ross said Crouch is well-liked and well-respected as a mechanic in the biking community. He said Crouch enjoys bicycle and motorcycle racing and is "a great guy" and "real athletic."

"He'll be fine," Ross said. "He's real resourceful. We're all hoping and praying."

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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